The cause for canonization of the “prince of paradox” will not be opened, says Bishop Doyle of the late Catholic polymath’s home diocese in Northampton.
In September of 2013, the Diocese of Northampton in Westminster, England appointed Father John Udris to investigate the possibility of opening the Cause of G. K. Chesterton.
Udris completed his investigation at the end of the summer in 2018 and his findings were sent to Bishop Peter Doyle of Northampton, who then consulted with the Vatican about whether to open the beatification cause.
In a letter read out to the 38th annual American Society of G. K. Chesterton conference, Bishop Doyle recognized “Chesterton’s goodness and his ability to evangelize,” but then said he could not support any potential cause for canonization.
“I am very conscious of the devotion to GK Chesterton in many parts of the world and of his inspiring influence on so many people, and this makes it difficult to communicate the conclusion to which I have come.”
Doyle had three primary reasons for his decision: no “local cult” of devotion, saying he has no “pattern of personal spirituality,” and he also charged Chesterton with the “issue of antisemitism.”
“That conclusion is that I am unable to promote the cause of GK Chesterton for three reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, there is no local cult. Secondly, I have been unable to tease out a pattern of personal spirituality. And, thirdly, even allowing for the context of G K Chesterton’s time, the issue of anti-Semitism is a real obstacle particularly at this time in the United Kingdom.”
Father Udris expressed his disappointment at the announcement.
“I don’t envy Bishop Peter having to make a decision with such huge implications. Of course it’s a disappointment. But the investigation was an enormous privilege. Getting to know Chesterton better has certainly changed me for good.”
Father Benedict Kiely, a London-native, believes Chesterton’s intercession helped cure his mother of sepsis.
“I asked the help of GKC six years ago when my mother was in extremis from sepsis – Chesterton’s biographer Joseph Pearce joined me in prayer – within one day of the novena her poison level dropped dramatically.”
Kiely claims the decision is a “textbook example of the obeisance of the hapless hierarchy to the dominant PC culture.”
“Writing to Evelyn Waugh, Hilaire Belloc described the English Catholic hierarchy in the 1930s as ‘a fog of mediocrity.’ The decision of the current Bishop of Northampton not to pursue the cause of GK Chesterton’s canonization indicates the fog has yet to clear.”
Doyle has said that his successor could re-open the cause, who handed in his resignation customarily to Pope Francis as he has reached the age of 75.
“And I would not want to be an obstacle to this, beyond stating the conclusions I have reached.”
The Society of G. K. Chesterton has dedicated a whole issue of the magazine defending the late lay theologian against false charges of antisemitism, which you can read for free here.